[It’s Huge,Expensive and Dysfunctional]
I have fond memories of evenings huddled around the radio with parents and siblings. Similarly, I have great memories of the first days that the 21 inch Admiral television arrived along with an antenna attached to house.
Unlike the radio, that television (TV) only had two stations. One station was from the ‘States and the other was the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC). Most of the time though, the TV just broadcast test patterns until the two stations woke up around noon.
Things change; sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Television today has evolved into high definition color as compared to the often ghost like black and white images of my youth. We now have choice and can watch programs from any one of over 400 stations. I have even learned how to watch two stations at the same time and can even time phase the programming to watch at a time convenient to me.
The two English language CBC radio stations are still around. I still sometimes listen to one of them when I am too busy to turn on the computer and read my daily quota of news.
In northern and remote areas, the CBC is the only game in town. In my travels in remote places I have seen or listened to CBC broadcast, often in Cree or Ojibwa. I lament that the English language portions of daily broadcast programming in remote areas is too often of such poor content that it is simply very costly drivel.
I often refer to the CBC as the retarded giant. It exists today simply because it has existed in the past. It is costly and laden with internal beaurocracy. The annual budget to operate this monster has now crested $1.1 BILLION. That operating cost is an unworthy use of tax payers’ money in the new millennium.
A Costly Waste
There is an irony to the CBC. Most of us are aware of the “SunShine” list that is published each year. When it is published, these annual lists of high paid public servants earning (receiving) more than $100,000 each is often news worthy on CBC. The incongruity is that a very large number of CBC’s “talking heads” are taking home salaries far in excess of the $100,000 plateau but have managed to hide the number from the CBC’s benefactors (the Canadian taxpayer).
It is astounding to hear of some of the executive, senior and middle management salaries and bonuses being paid at CBC. Added to that we have a goodly number of on-air “personalities” who draw astronomical wages! CBC alumni such as Mike Duffy, Jian Ghomeshi and Pamela Wallin were all former elite CBC talking heads.
Although CBC management has managed to hide their publicly funded wages from the public, the wastage does start and end with salaries and bonuses. Periodically stores seep revealing nice little executive junkets to Europe and pricey executive soiree’s. Could it be that those Senate expense habits of Duffy and Whallin came be way of their apprenticeship with the CBC where spending and wages are secret?
Despite the veil of spending secrecy that shrouds the CBC, what cannot be hidden is a frequent trail of costly court settlements where CBC has been found guilty slander and defamation of character. These court assigned penalties have ranged as high as $5 Million at times and are indications that the “ship is without a rudder”. Left uncontrolled and with a free hand into the public purse, such things do not come as a surprise.
This lack of management control has seen CBC descend from being a source of news distribution to near evangelic attempts to force feed the public on the “news reader’s” twisted points of view. I have personally heard CBC on-air staff refer to Alberta residents as “uninformed hicks” Author Brian Lilley’s book, “CBC Exposed” delves into backrooms and hallways at CBC and (frankly) those defamation law suits should come as no surprise. Lilley speaks (frankly) about a cankerous workplace where slurs are commonplace.
It is high time to lift the veil of financial secrecy at the CBC and to demand public accountability IF CBC is to continue operating in one form or another. To permit openly biased political comments to flourish in the hallways and boardrooms at CBC is an insult to unbiased journalism. The fact that one CBC journalist regularly uses words such “those fuckers” when referring to one particular political party has no place in the media – little own publicly funded media.
CBC’s Best before Date has Expired
It is past the time when this tax sink should be euthanized. An Abacus Poll (2011) reveals that 59% of Canadians feel strongly that the veil of secrecy at CBC must end. Additionally, the lack of management within CBC has permitted costs to spiral while content quality has fallen to an anything goes state.
The biased politics from a publicly funded agency has no place and, in fact is dangerous. Such broadcast bias is a hot bed for propaganda. Canadians deserve much better.
As early as the 1970’s, (then) Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau observed that “ Société Radio-Canada (SRC) was a kind of hotbed of separatism and somewhere near 50 per cent of the population of Quebec was independantiste at the time and probably about half the people working for SRC Radio and Television were as well.”
I disagree with Trudeau (Pierre) on a number subjects but in this case, he was absolutely correct.
There are two camps on the CBC issue. I have travelled enough inside of Canada to recognize that the “corporation” has a purpose in some places while it would be best to make major changes in other areas.
I advocate breaking CBC into a number of geographic pieces. The broadcaster has a real and valid purpose in the north and remote regions of Canada. That portion should be severed from the corporation and continue to be nurtured by way of tax payer funds.
On the other hand, CBC as it presently exists in southern and urban regions of Canada would be best if it freed itself from the high priced payroll and elite board of directors. One only need look at recent events to conclude that the CBC is a sinking ship that is being kept afloat by tax dollars that would be better used on important items such as poverty reduction, housing in Aboriginal communities and any number of other far more worthy uses.
One only need look at the haphazard broadcast of the Ontario PanAm games to conclude that the “old ship” is sinking fast. Too many nights, the fare at CBC consists of time wasters such as stories about three topless sisters riding bicycles in Kitchener or an angry woman who wanted to vent about why she did not want to trade seats on a flight from Newark. The corporation has become too big to excerpt quality at the local levels and is simply losing audience. The revenue loss from CBC’s long standing milk-cow “Hockey Night in Canada” is having a drastic result.
All is not lost. The network could regain its original place by simply being severed into regional parts that reflect regional audiences. The Public Broadcast System (PBS) type funding format seems to work well in USA markets and may be the ideal solution for the CBC stations operating in southern and urban Canada. Each of the local station’s budgets would be strictly donor based. Thus, a great incentive to “pull up the socks”.
There are gigantic assets which have been amassed with taxpayers’ money. Real estate and a large number of broadcast licenses have financial value and could pay down tax debt if put on the market and sold to the private sector.
Failing that, we will simply continue to pour millions of tax dollars into a dysfunctional institution.
Copyright Thunderbird Rising 2015
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